I had been working around the house most of the day and needed to get out and about. I decided a cup of coffee was in order, but I didn’t just want Starbucks or Atlanta Bread Company, my usual haunts. Then I remembered Java Fix, a coffee shop in a tiny weird building on Wade Hampton Boulevard. That simple decision turned into an afternoon’s adventure.
I’m a sucker for weird angled buildings. These are usually built to take advantage of a limited footprint where roads intersect at a sharp angle. Often there will be an entrance at the narrow end, then the place widens out. There used to be a really cool building at the intersection of Poinsett and Highway 183, but it was torn down when the Pete Hollis Boulevard was build. That was a shame.
Located where Mohawk Drive veers off of Wade Hampton, Java Fix is in a tiny little angled building. I think it started as a car service place. For awhile it was a record store, and I remember stopping in to browse. It’s also been a hairstyle saloon and several other things before the Fix people took over.
The interior could only hold product and a small bar for making coffee. There was one table where customers could stand, although there were tables outside.
I ordered my usual, and was soon delivered an excellent cup of caffe mocha. They apparently use the Leopard Forest beans here, and the coffee was quite good.
There was one other item in the small area I had not yet mentioned – a spiral staircase right at the entrance leading to an upper level. The barista said that there was more seating up there, so I decided I had to check it out.
What I discovered was a hipster haven, replete with old second-hand furniture and funky artwork. There was even a live hipster there to set the mood.
The ceiling was festooned with old LP covers. A curved track held a Lodestar hoist motor, a relic of the building’s past as an auto mechanic shop.
I enjoyed my coffee, read my Kindle, and looked out at the views from the somewhat lofty perch. It was at that time that I noticed the weird antique store just across the street on Mohawk Drive. I knew that had to be the next stop.
Long ago, when Laura and I first got married, we lived in a little house not far from here. On this site at that time was the Aloha Restaurant, with the best Chinese food in town, bar none. The building was old and decrepit, with a huge fake tree covered with Christmas lights in the middle of the dining area. That building was eventually condemned and torn down. Next to it, though, arose Shinola Antiques, one of the weirdest collections of…well, you’ll just have to see.
There were signs that said “Open,” but the first problem I had was figuring out how to get into the building. All of the entrances seemed to be partially blocked with stuff. I decided to squeeze past through what I assumed was the main door. I found myself in a room stuffed to the rafters with an odd assortment of just about anything you could imagine. Very narrow passageways led around the heaps. It was immediate sensory overload.
Not knowing what to expect, I only had my iPhone and no other camera with me. Even so, I pulled it out and started snapping away. Since the whole was so overwhelming I tried to focus on individual items. The one thing I noticed was that there seemed to be a creepy doll head on EVERYTHING.
I followed a narrow passageway around a corner, with signs pointing to a “Warehouse.” I found myself in a much larger, but no less packed room. If I had thought there was clutter before, I hadn’t seen anything yet. I almost felt like I was in that big warehouse at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. You could just barely squeeze between the rows, and it was hard to see any individual item. There was larger furniture here, but I don’t know how you would ever get to it. There were also some smalls tucked between the larger items.
The weirdness was just getting started. All of the sudden there was an opening and I found myself outside among an odd collection of…junk. There was no other name for it. I don’t think any of this stuff was for sale, but it was such an odd mishmash that it was almost even more overwhelming than the enclosed space had been.
I spotted movement, and saw that I was surrounded by live chickens. No, this was not a dream/nightmare. There were really chickens. One amazingly large white rooster (whom I later learned is named Walter) headed my way. I don’t have good past experience with roosters. On the farm where we lived when I was little there was one that flogged me every time I went into the yard. I eyed this one warily. I didn’t know its intent, but it followed me around more like a cat than a rooster.
I learned later that I was in “Ben’s Garden.” Ben is the owner of Shinola, with one serious “hoarder gene”, as the guy running the place today put it. Ben had created this monument to hoarding on the site of the old Aloha Restaurant. As with the interior, there were doll heads and parts everywhere. There was also weird statuary, and even hub caps embedded in the muddy hillside. I found a bird bath full of cherubs, in a “hot tub” sort of arrangement. Unfortunately, everything here was in a state of decay as weather took its toll on fragile plaster and sculpted figures.
I’d had just about enough. I headed back in and slowly made my way back out. One thing I did know – if I ever needed parts to build a creepy humanoid robot, I knew where to get the parts.
There was one room I had missed that had framed artwork stacked on edge. I paused to check it out.
Outside, I spotted another door on down. I couldn’t tell if it was part of the same shop or not. It looked a fraction more organized. I decided to check it out. It seems that the impression was mistaken. Inside it had the same characteristics as next door, but hadn’t quite achieved the same density.
The find of the day, though, was a Jesus clock with a hole in its head for a lamp fitting. It was tempting (which, I guess is ironic, considering the subject matter.)
Outside I chatted with Michael, who was running the shop today, and another regular customer. Michael said that in addition to the chickens they once had a goat, but a neighbor complained. The other customer said that she shopped here regularly, and that her eleven year old son’s bedroom was decorated with finds from this place. Either she’s got the coolest kid on the planet, or a potential serial killer.
As weird as it is, I want to come back. I especially want to bring someone with me so I can watch their expressions of delight and horror as they explore the depths of Shinola Antiques.
I couldn’t put all of the photos in this one post, so here’s a slideshow: